Dutch ships loading timber in a Northern Port
This painting is the finest example of van Eertvelt's early work in the National Maritime Museum's collection and represents the variety inherent within the artist's subject matter. The industrious scene of Dutch and Flemish ships being loaded with timber is set in a natural harbour along a Scandinavian fjord. Large numbers of tree-trunks have been brought down into the bay in the left foreground, where they have been bundled into the water by numerous workmen. The ships inshore are loaded through stern ports. The stern of the large vessel on the left is decorated with a depiction of the Virgin Mary, identifying the ship's origin as the Catholic Southern Netherlands. To the right an Amsterdam merchantman, followed by other vessels in the distance, arrives on the scene. Small boats dart around between the larger ships. Beyond the bustle, the shoreline of rounded rocks, pines and fir trees rise and guide the eye to the horizon. In the distance to the right the mountains on the opposite side of the fjord are visible. A small rocky island rises out of the water just beyond the shadow defining the foreground. The light seems to brighten towards the horizon and the artist has adjusted the lightness of the paint-layer on the panel accordingly. In the foreground van Eertvelt's characteristic small figures in their bright clothes appear to be built up into flat relief with slightly thicker layers of paint. Thin brushstrokes executed in the same colour add distinct outlines and define the shapes. The glasslike green waves are crowned by thin white curly crests. The naturalism in the scene's narrative is here balanced by a degree of stylization in the depiction of the landscape and the rendering of perspective, betraying van Eertvelt's stylistic roots in the sixteenth-century Flemish tradition. This 'conservative' rendering of landscape can be perceived both in Flanders and in the North until the late 1620s. Similarly, the pictorial concept of a Scandinavian shoreline is seen on both sides of the border. Like the painter Adam Willaerts (BHC0803), who had settled in Utrecht, van Eertvelt introduced pine and fir trees and rocks to signify the otherwise imaginary setting. Van Eertvelt's portrayal of a peaceful co-existence of Protestant and Catholic ships aligns this picture with Hendrick Vroom's Ships Trading in the East (BHC0727).
Andries van Eertvelt
- Image reference: BHC0750
- National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
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